« VorigeDoorgaan »
lo! in that central recess, hight Middle Briers, seems to rise up before me the identical dispenser of sweet things, whom it was my prime delight years ago to torment. Alas! it is but one of Fancy's pranks-like Macbeth's air-drawn dagger, "there's no such thing." There have been strange revolutions in the last few years. I knew in my time three dynasties of piemen. There is another now, and for all I know there may have been a dozen more between. And could not thy gentler sex, O enticing Mrs Clayton! preserve thee from usurping violence? What man of iron heart could seize thy sceptre and transfer thine ancient seat of empire? I miss thee sore, ( gentle autocrat of tarts! Never again shall I fall upon thy dainties, as I was wont to do of yore, with all the indiscriminating appetite of thirteen! Never more shall I wantonly upset thine orange-basket, as of old, and take to my heels, leaving thee, like some anile Atalanta, to gather up as thou best mightest the golden fruit, bearing me, kind soul, no greater malice than wishing thou couldst “ just ketch that young warmint, that's all."
derstand on what grounds they added the cock and the dog-and hold him kicking under the water till he was within half a gulp of bidding defiance to the efforts of the Humane Society. I am, as I said, pacifically disposed, yet I could pick a quarrel even with Cowper, that most peaceable specimen of genus irritabile," for the merely so much as hinting that to "love the play-place of our early days" can by any possibility be "a weakness;" and yet, though he rails at schools roundly, he describes so well the pleasure which one feels in revisiting them in after life, that I do not believe he could in his heart have entertained much dislike for them."A weakness," forsooth! Then do I glory in my infirmity-for I am proud of loving the spot where I sported away the few years which we little victims," as Gray calls us, are allowed to gallop through, before care jumps up in the saddle behind us. I look-profane wretch that I am!—with a peculiar pleasure at the chapel window, happily not painted, through which one memorable afternoon I "swiped" the cricket-ball:-at the corner behind whose shelter I used, in daring defiance of magisterial edicts, and ambitious imitation of maturer manhood, to inhale the fragrance of the forbidden and furtive "weed:" -at the roof over which I scrambled night after night, at the peril of life and limb, for no earthly object save the chance of a sound flogging the following morning. I cannot but confess to a slight compunctious visiting at the sight of the window, from whose "coign of vantage" I more than once saluted some unsuspicious passer-by, now with a shower of peppering peas or innocuous nutshells, now perchance with a not scanty libation of that pure element, which Pindar and the teetotallers pronounce most excellent. Some little twitches of conscience, I say, I cannot but acknowledge; but, after all, I would not give a fig for a man who could go back to his old school and not find a spot pregnant with some reminiscence of mischief. Your stiff-starched, steady-going juvenile, who never gets into a scrape, and looks virtuously indignant at the bare mention of a birch, is no boy after my heart:-I have something of Sir Oliver Surface in me.
I stroll down the old cloister, and
There is one, and one only lack about my old school which always strikes me very forcibly. I have walked through other great schools, and in their halls, their dormitories, their schoolrooms I see, above and around me, hundreds of names that have thrown a fresh glory on the pulpit, the bar, the senate, the camp, and the quarterdeck-names that will die only when the last man dies-anxiously preserved and proudly displayed-names carved or traced perchance ere yet a dream of future greatness had flitted across the young vision-when the height of the boy's ambition was to leave some memorial of himself, however rude, behind him-that his name might not be utterly forgotten in the spot which it was destined one day to hallow. The thickly-lettered walls of such places are their simplest, noblest, most eloquent panegyric. Their men must look up at them with somewhat of that pride which animated him who, after long gazing in speechless ecstasy on the masterpiece of the great master of his art, broke forth at last into the exulting boast, " And I, too, am a painter!"
We have none of these-at least we had none till within these few years
comparatively speaking, alone. My
and these are somewhat scattered; and all, moreover, carved by the monotonous uncharacterising hand of the artificer. They are all the same, unrelieved by any picturesque variety of type or hue-all formal, priggish, copy-book, tombstone-like, looking inscriptions-immortality purchased at threepence per letter! I know not to what this nakedness of our walls is to be attributed; but I do not now expect ever to see it remedied. would be a bold spirit who should first mar with his rude autograph the whiteness of the virgin plaster :—illi robur et as triplex circa pectus erit,--and, if the latter be not somewhere else, as I confess I hold the ties of societieswell as circa pectus, he will stand a if I may so express myself-of such good chance of smarting for his auda- societies I mean as a school or a colcity. But let it not be thought that lege, whose names are hallowed in our we show no great names, because we minds by many a bright recollection of have none such to boast. No, we the past-by many a common benefachave our full share, and more than our tor whose memory we can bless-by full share. What a glorious alphabet many an illustrious son, to whom we we could make : -Par exemple, A, can point with a common pride — by Addison-B, Blackstone-bah! I am many a near and dear friend there won stopped at the outset, for I must not I hold, I say, the ties and the claims make invidious distinctions, and al- which such fellowships have upon us, ready I want a second B for Barrow. to be inferior in strength only to those I do not know that to me, individually, of country and of blood; and in the the absence of these mural records is next degree of shame to him who a matter of much moment, for I-and brings disgrace on the gray hairs of I trust all good Carthusians-have his sire and the honour of his ancesmost of them by heart: but we want tors, do I place the man who feels no them for the public, who have no inte- reverence for the well springs whence rest in searching out our glories, and his spirit drank its earliest draughts, need to have them pointed out to them and scruples not, without one qualm before they hold us in due honour. of conscience, to put his "alma To my mind's eye they are as visible mater" to the blush. I love that fond as though they met my bodily vision, old classical epithet of "alma mater: " in real tangible black and white, at I see no reason why it should not be every step I take. They puff me up applied to a school as well as to a in my own esteem, and make me shine university; nay, I know not indeed in my own eyes with a reflected glory. whether it be not the more proper apBut that is not all they do for me. plication of the two; but, however These departed sons of Charter-House that may be, it smacks of a wholesome stand to me, of whose future existence respect, a reverential affection in the they had not the remotest idea, in a re- choice spirits who were wont to use it, lation of which they never dreamed. which alone would be sufficient to They are the sureties for my good be- warm my heart towards their memohaviour-my involuntary godfathers. ries. Were I ever to transgress the sixth commandment, my nightly couch would be haunted by 500 spirits, besides that of the murdered man. In my dreams I should see them, bending all upon me their serious, reverend, reproving glances; and hear their solemn accents saying, with a severity not unmixed with sorrow, "Thou a son of Sutton, and didst thou do this? I am fain to confess that on this ground I stand,
But I bid fair to wander.
That old chapel too-what a host of recollections does it not awaken! It was not often my lot to kneel within its walls as a worshipper, for I had numerous and kind friends around, who made my Sabbath-days for the most part holidays; but I well remember being once debarred from this indulgence, as a punishment for some scrape I had got into, and having to attend its services for three or four suc
cessive Sundays in consequence; and I remember well, too, how I then used to envy those happier juveniles who were at church at home-that is to say, with their friends, and at liberty. I fear I did not say my prayers so earnestly as I ought to have done on those few weary Sundays; at any rate it would be useless to deny that my name is still legible, carved at full length on the back of the bench before that on which my seat was allotted. What a broad, kind, sheltering back hadst thou, long lost, but not forgotten, "9 under whose concealing shade I plied my unseen labour! What a magnificent snore was thine, O most irreverent ! which did divert the watchful ear of pastor and master from heeding the cautious chisellings of the sculptor, alas, no less irreverent!
Would that the mirth of the child recalled, the pride of the man awakened, were the only feelings stirred up within us by a ramble about the wellremembered precincts! We leave a large public school, and, though but one short year has departed to swell the number of its vanished brethren, we cannot return to it for an odd half hour, without being visited by remembrances which have, at the very least, some tinge of sadness. In the natural course of things it must be so. In the course of four years passed within these walls, I must have had, at a moderate computation, about eight hundred schoolfellows. What wonder that of so great a number,
"Some are dead and some are gone, And some are scatter'd and alone, And some are in a far countrie, And some all restlessly at home?" I do not mean to say that of that eight hundred I could call one-eighth, or even one-sixteenth part my friends: to half of them, perhaps, I never so much as spoke twenty words during the whole period of our common pupillage; but they were all my schoolfellows-all Carthusians;-and for such, when I hear of unlooked-for sorrows or untimely death, I have ever a sigh the more. It is as good as a score of homilies to walk by one's self in holiday time round the old haunts. In the quarter, when the playground is full and noisy, when the eye can turn nowhere but it lights upon some laughing face, and the ear can hear nothing save sounds of merriment, these
things do not strike one with such force, though even then they will at times intrude; but in vacation-time, when master and scholar are alike holidaymaking-and it would be difficult to say which enjoys the release with the keener relish there is a silence and a solitude about the place, a desolation not of ruins, but as though some enchanter's wand had whisked away from it every thing with the breath of life in its nostrils-which chills my spirits at the very outset, and disposes me to sad and serious contemplations. The old gate-porter at his lodge, dozing in his elbow.chair, starts from his slumbers at the unwonted sound of a footfall, as I pass through. The boards of the fine old carved oak staircase that leads up to the terrace, are as unstained as though they had been laid down but an hour ago. The long broad terrace itself has lost half of its attractions. There is no pleasure in walking along it now. There is no admiring eye below to look up at me as I pace along it, envious of the high privilege denied to the status pupillaris;-no enquiring group to speculate on the name and business of the stranger who seems to be so much at home in their domain. The old cloister strikes damp, and cold, and cheerless; I almost wonder how I ever could have taken such pleasure in vaulting in and out at its broad high windows. The green shows not, through all its extent, a vestige of its absent denizens, save, perchance, four or five hoops dexterously swung up to rot upon some projecting branch of the old, decaying, smoke-blackened trees, or a broken tennis-bat thrown aside on a heap of rubbish in some neglected corner, and serving only by its presence to impress upon us more forcibly the utter desertion of the place. I rattle the handles of the schoolroom doors in vain, and I growl and grumble that I am not able to get in, where I formerly thought it the greatest earthly happiness to get out. It would be a satisfaction to me to look even upon the old floggingblock-a sort of chastened pleasure, renovare dolorem. I would fain sɛtisfy myself, also, as to the truth of a rumour which has reached my ears, that that venerable relic has in its old age met with a "heavy blow and a great discouragement;" that it holds now only a divisum imperium where
it once was alone in its glory; that a second parvenu flogging-block has been of late introduced to share, perchance erelong to usurp, its long unquestioned prerogatives. But the attempt is vain. There is absolutely nothing to see but bare walls and closeshuttered windows--nothing to hear but the distant hum and buzz of the "world shut out;"-around me silence and solitude, and beneath me the dead! I am treading at every step over the common grave of thousands, unconsecrated by the voice of Holy Church, unvisited by the gloomy pageantry which waits on death in its ordinary forms-a vast charnel-house of undistinguished bones-a huge garner for the harvest of a pestilence, reaped five centuries ago! At such times it is that the sadness of the place inspires a kindred feeling; at such times do I think of and and poor -, gone from among us in the bright warm springtime of life; of a solitary toiler in a land far from the home and the friends of his early years;-of many a one on whose undeserving head the world has dealt its merciless buffets-many a weary struggler, in vain-many a bright prospect dimmed and overcloudedmany a soaring spirit checked and broken,—and I turn away from the spot with a less careless footstep, sadder and (I trust) a wiser man. But I did not mean to be mournful when I began this paper.
Of all the days in the year, commend me most especially to that on which we meet to do honour to the memory of our Founder-a day long anticipated and fondly remembereda day of hand-shakings and heartwarmings—a day on which they who were friends of old strengthen their friendship, and they who were foes forget their enmity-a day of unin
troduced acquaintanceships, when we need no master of the ceremonies to present one Carthusian to anothera day of merry tales and side-shaking reminiscences, when all our juvenile delinquencies and escapades are called up in review before us, only to make us wish that we could once more have an opportunity of being guilty of them when the old school-stories of our time are told, failing not, though for the twentieth time, to elicit the accustomed peal of merriment, and the old hall echoes again to the cheers which follow the prime toast of the evening, the time-honoured heartfelt toast of "Domus," and the uproarious but merry controversy to which it never fails to give rise. It must be a tempting lure, indeed, that would keep me away from that day's meeting-a most unexceptionable excuse that would salve my conscience for the breach of duty. It was but the other day that I heard of a little knot of Carthusians, who had met together and celebrated "Founder's Day" in Australia. I would I knew their names, for they must be men after my own heart; but though unknown, I honour them none the less. I will answer for it, there is not a single one of that "band of brothers" whom Charter-House need blush to acknowledge as her son.
But I must lay a strong hand upon myself. The cacoëthes scribendi is increasing upon me too rapidly-crescit indulgens sibi-and I forget that I am not yet quite sufficiently stricken in years to claim the privilege of unlimited garrulity. I would not willingly become ad extremum ridendus, though I have wind and bottom enough for a mile or two more yet. It is better to pull up at the distance than to break down before the judge.
T. V. R.